All set to supply public with goods when curfew lifts

Monday, 23 March 2020 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

People who venture out shopping, banking or to engage in other tasks are urged to maintain a physical distance of one metre when shopping or queuing up and encouraged to cleanse themselves meticulously upon returning home to ensure other household members remain protected – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara


  • Retail shops including supermarkets and cooperatives stock up on goods
  • Police and military support logistics to ensure public supplied with essential items
  • Major supermarket chains issue fresh guidelines to customers
  • Shoppers to be limited, safe distance to be maintained, limits placed on quantities of some products
  • Number of patients reach 81 with 3,506 people quarantined in 45 centres
  • 15,000 people who returned to SL from 1-15 March identified
  • All locals engaged on Buddhist pilgrimage in India return, sent to 3 quarantine centres
  • Central Bank appeals to banks to open during non-curfew hours
  • Elections Commission appeals to parties to suspend campaigning, says new date for elections after 20 April


Retail outlets including supermarkets and cooperatives yesterday prepared to open on Monday morning in non-curfew areas, with fresh guidelines issued to the public to be stringently followed when making purchases, as the patient count reached 81 yesterday.

Areas outside of Colombo, Gampaha, Puttalam and Jaffna Districts will have curfew lifted at 6 a.m. and most shops and supermarkets are attempting to open earlier than usual to allow sufficient time for the influx of expected customers.

Authorities, including the military, were also working around the clock with the private sector and other stakeholders to ensure that supply chains were functional around the country over the weekend and stocks were replenished ahead of the expected buying rush.

Currently, 3,506 people are being quarantined in 45 quarantine centres, with 31 of them from 14 different countries, the National Operations Centre for the Prevention of COVID-19 said. According to further information released by the centre, about 15,000 people who had returned to the country from 1 March to 15 March have been identified and registered.

Of the 81 patients, 74 are receiving treatment at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) with two patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and seven at the Welikanda Base Hospital. In addition, 444 pilgrims who had reached Sri Lanka over the weekend had also been sent to quarantine centres in Palally, Mullaitivu and Kundasale. As of yesterday all Sri Lankans who were on Buddhist pilgrimages in India have returned to the country.

A total of 480 fuel stations covering all Police divisions of the country remained open even when curfew has been imposed in order to facilitate logistics, including organising food deliveries.

Sri Lanka Retail Association Chairman Sidath Kodikara told Daily FT there was no need for the public to engage in panic buying as there were ample stocks of essential items. He also assured all supermarkets would conform to hygiene and safety requirements and people have been urged to maintain a physical distance of one metre when shopping or queuing up.

A spokesman for Cargills, which has the largest network of 408 supermarkets, said most non-curfew area outlets numbering 161 would open early provided the staff reported to work ahead of time. A spokesman for Keells too said it had 25 outlets in non-curfew areas and 21 of those would open.

All major supermarkets also issued guidelines for customers, with Cargills insisting that customers queue outside their establishments, with only 20 customers being allowed inside a FoodCity outlet at one time and only eight customers at a FoodCity Express outlet to minimise the number of customers on the shop floor.

Shoppers will be required to maintain a distance of one metre from each other and staff at all times, as well as take measures to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or piece of cloth when they enter the outlet. Once inside customers have to complete their shopping within 20 minutes so that other people can also have a chance to get their shopping done. Cargills also requested that shoppers exit its outlets by 1 p.m. so that staff have time to close and return to their homes before curfew is re-imposed at 2 p.m.

Keells supermarkets also said it would limit the number of people entering its stores, appealing for one member of each family to take up the task of shopping. It has also limited the quantities of products that can be bought by customers and echoed the appeal to maintain the appropriate distance from fellow customers and employees. LAUGFS Supermarkets also confirmed it would open its Kurunegala outlet from 6 a.m. on Monday while its other outlets would open from 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Government also called on the public to keep the elderly at home as they remain the most vulnerable category. People who venture out shopping, banking or to engage in other tasks were encouraged to cleanse themselves meticulously upon returning home to ensure other household members remain protected.

The Central Bank has requested all Licensed Commercial Banks and Licensed Specialised Banks to keep their branches open for at least two hours tomorrow in the areas where Police curfew is lifted to provide urgent banking services to the general public.

However, the CBSL encourages the public to use online payment instruments for their day-to-day transactions and to withdraw cash at less-crowded ATMs of any bank.

CBSL also advised banks and the general public to strictly adhere to necessary health and safety requirements in providing/obtaining such services. Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya yesterday appealed to political parties and candidates contesting in the Parliamentary Election to halt all campaign activities and concentrate on the programs to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He said all election propaganda activities that cause division among the people must be immediately stopped and everyone must pay heed to the programs in place to control COVID-19.

Any meeting to consider the new date of the election will be after 20 April and that too would depend on the evolving situation in the country, Deshapriya said in a statement.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine cannot be issued without a prescription from a specialist medical officer, the Health and Indigenous Medical Services Ministry said on Sunday, after misleading information emerged that it could be used to treat COVID-19.

Issuing a special notice to retail pharmacy owners, the Ministry instructed them not to issue chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine without a prescription from a specialist medical officer. Health officials also stringently warned against using these drugs as a preventative against COVID-19.